- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

MINDEN, La. (AP) - Weather permitting, the smallest of three burns to destroy unstable and potentially explosive nitrocellulose at Camp Minden is scheduled Friday, the Louisiana National Guard said Thursday.

Experts don’t think people outside of the camp are likely to feel or hear anything from Friday’s ignition of 820 pounds of “clean-burning igniter” or from two much larger ignitions tentatively scheduled Sunday and Nov. 5, said Col. Ed Bush, a national guard spokesman.

“They’ll probably see some smoke, and that’ll go away,” he said in an interview Thursday.

After a bunker holding about 60 tons of the compound exploded Sept. 29, Defense Department experts decided the remaining 100 tons had to be burned as soon as possible to avoid similar explosions.

Nitrocellulose burns extremely fast but doesn’t explode unless it’s contained, and robots will open the bunker doors to give the flames an escape route, experts have explained.

Any of the burns could be delayed by winds greater than 15 mph, low cloud cover or lightning within 10 miles, according to a National Guard news release Thursday.

The lack of wind is needed to ensure that any smoke stays within the 15,000-acre site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will analyze air at four stationary sites outside Camp Minden for a variety of pollutants, and the EPA will bring in a bus equipped to check for tiny amounts of hydrogen cyanide and diphenylamine.

All three fires will be overseen by seven members of the Army’s 797th Ordnance Company and 79th Ordnance Battalion of Fort Hood, Texas, officials said.

If conditions remain favorable, the team will ignite 57 tons in a second bunker on Sunday, with the remainder to be touched off Nov. 5. The third bunker holds 42 tons of igniter, which is used in artillery shells to touch off the M6 propellant, and 20 tons of M6.

A contractor abandoned about 160 tons of igniter and 7,800 tons of propellant when it went bankrupt in 2013.

The M6 is being burned and the resulting gases filtered by Explosives Services International, which has destroyed nearly 47 percent of the abandoned propellant so far.

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